Associations between respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity and effortful control in preschool-age children

Michael J. Sulik, Nancy Eisenberg, Tracy Spinrad, Kassondra M. Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We tested whether respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity in response to each of three self-regulation tasks (bird and dragon; knock-tap; and gift wrap) would predict self-regulation performance in a sample of 101 preschool-age children (M age=4.49, SD=64). While controlling for baseline RSA, decreases in RSA from bird and dragon to knock-tap (but not from baseline to bird and dragon) predicted a latent variable measuring self-regulation. Furthermore, increases in RSA from the knock-tap to gift wrap-the only task involving delay of gratification-were related to concurrent task performance while controlling for the relation between RSA reactivity and the latent self-regulation variable. Results suggest that the relations between RSA reactivity and self-regulatory ability are influenced by task-specific demands and possibly by task order. Furthermore, RSA reactivity appears to relate differently to performance on motivationally salient self-regulation tasks such as delay of gratification relative to cool executive function tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-606
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Effortful control
  • Executive function
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)
  • Self-regulation
  • Vagal tone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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